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17 reasons why you still can't pump your own gas in most of Oregon

In this April 5, 2017 image taken from video, a gas pump stands abandoned, the price frozen in time, in downtown Tiller, Ore. Tiller, a dot on a map in remote southwestern Oregon, is for sale for $3.5 million, including the gas station, and the elementary school is for sale separately for $350,000. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

"It’s not often Californians get to poke fun at another state"


EUGENE, Ore. - So why can't you pump your own gas in Oregon?

A new law took effect January 1 allowing some gas stations in the Beaver State's 15 counties with populations under 40,000 to offer self-serve gasoline. Three counties on the Oregon Coast can now offer self-serve fueling from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. under the same bill.

But few stations have moved to take advantage of the law.

And in general, Oregon remains just one of two U.S. states - New Jersey is the other - where you can't pump your own gas.

Not in Portland, the quirky backdrop for the comedy series "Portlandia."

Not in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks.

Not in Salem, the state capital.

The issue ignited quite the conversation on the KVAL News Facebook page over the New Year holiday.

The same question, posed by our sister station KTVL in Medford, exploded into a viral sensation. (Read on for more on Oregon's unique experience with "exploding" below)

Some Oregonians didn't like the idea of self-serve gasoline ever going statewide.

"No! Disabled, seniors, people with young children in the car need help," Cathy Dahl wrote. "Not to mention getting out of your car with transients around and not feeling safe too. This is a very bad idea. Grrr."

"A 'very bad idea'," David Kirk West replied, "that is implemented without problem in 48/50 states, representing about 95% of the nation's population."

From there on out, the responses won the internet, inspiring headlines at outlets like Jalopnik ("Join America In Laughing At Oregonians Freaking Out About Pumping Their Own Gas") and HuffPost ("Internet Trolls Oregonians After Self-Serve Gas Law Takes Effect").

"I'm moving to Oregon," Russell Gooch quipped, "because I can't stop spilling fuel on myself, frequently soaking myself head to toe.... I have to lie and tell people it's really expensive cologne. I'm tired of the lies."

"It’s not often Californians get to poke fun at another state," David Stone chimed in. "We have our lunatics running this state and things are a mess here. But at least from hippies to rednecks, we can pump our own gas. Today...today we look north, and snicker."

So why can't Oregonians pump their own gas?

The state motto is Alis volat propriis: "She Flies With Her Own Wings".

Are we really incapable of driving beyond our own borders, doomed to run out of fuel and wither away in the wilds of Washington, California, Idaho or Nevada?

For certain, Oregon is infamous when it comes to blowing things up. (Ever wondered what 20 cases of dynamite does to a beached whale?)

But state law spells out the reasoning behind the prohibition against self-serve fueling in Volume 12 of the Oregon Revised Statutes, entitled "Drugs and Alcohol, Fire Protection, Natural Resources".

The policy statement is contained in Chapter 480, titled "Explosives; Flammable Materials; Pressure Vessels". (Text of measure excerpted below; full text at bottom of post)

"The Legislative Assembly declares that (...) it is in the public interest to maintain a prohibition on the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail," the law reads.

The policy statement spells out 17 reasons for the prohibition of pumping your own gas, including:

FIRE HAZARD: "The dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by dispensers properly trained in appropriate safety procedures reduces fire hazards directly associated with the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids."

LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL: "Appropriate safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers."

LAWYERS, GUNS & MONEY: "Higher liability insurance rates charged to retail self-service stations reflect the dangers posed to customers when they leave their vehicles to dispense Class 1 flammable liquids, such as the increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury resulting from slipping on slick surfaces."

RAIN & SNOW & HIGHWAYMEN: "The dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection (3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility."

SERVICE TO SENIORS & DISABLED: "The dangers described (...) are heightened when the customer is a senior citizen or has a disability, especially if the customer uses a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches (...) Self-service dispensing at retail presents a health hazard and unreasonable discomfort to persons with disabilities, elderly persons, small children and those susceptible to respiratory diseases (...) the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336, requires that equal access be provided to persons with disabilities at retail gasoline stations."

WHAT SENIOR DISCOUNT? "Attempts by other states to require the providing of aid to senior citizens and persons with disabilities in the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail have failed, and therefore, senior citizens and persons with disabilities must pay the higher costs of full service."

AIRBORNE TOXIC PREVENT: "Exposure to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids; the hazard (...) is heightened when the customer is pregnant; the exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should, in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained and certified dispensers."

ECONOMIC JUSTICE: "The typical practice of charging significantly higher prices for full-service fuel dispensing in states where self-service is permitted at retail (...) discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self-service; (and) discriminates against customers who are elderly or have disabilities who are unable to serve themselves and so must pay the significantly higher prices."

SAFETY FIRST: The higher price of full-service gas "increases self-service dispensing and thereby decreases maintenance checks by attendants, which results in neglect of maintenance, endangering both the customer and other motorists and resulting in unnecessary and costly repairs."

CALL AAA! "The increased use of self-service at retail in other states has contributed to diminishing the availability of automotive repair facilities at gasoline stations."

IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID: "Self-service dispensing at retail in other states does not provide a sustained reduction in fuel prices charged to customers (...) a general prohibition of self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by the general public promotes public welfare by providing increased safety and convenience without causing economic harm to the public in general."

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: "Self-service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people."

THINK OF THE CHILDREN! "Small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation."

Some commenters took the same deep dive into Oregon law - and came away unconvinced.

"I have so many questions," Taylor Malone commented. "Do gas stations in Oregon exist only in war zones? Do they not have covers? Does the gas not shut off, but sprays continually all over everyone? Are cars routinely raided and children stolen? Is there a secret black market for children? Are the homeless people snipers? Does no one own gloves or leggings? Do the current attendants have free health care to deal with the apparent myriad of problems caused by exposure to gas fumes? Is pumping gas a lucrative career that needs to be protected? I'm so confused."

And Jim Bryant spied a business opportunity (good luck finding employees, though; Oregon unemployment has been running at records lows this year).

Bryant formulated a curriculum for Oregonians, covering everything from pumping gas to ... well, read on:

FEAR NOT OREGON!!!!
I've decided to move to Oregon to open a school to teach people how to pump their own gas. Short term business you say? HA! I will simply branch out and offer classes on such complicated things as:
1. Tying your own shoes.
2. Dressing yourself.
3. Operating a self checkout machine.
4. Dial your own phone.
5. Mow your own lawn.
6. Split your own firewood.
7. How to feed yourself.
8. Make your own dinner.
9. Wash, dry and fold your own laundry. (Extra charge as these are three classes taught separately)
10. Operating a can opener, manual and electric.
11. Counting past 10.
12. Wiping your own butt.
I understand Oregon, adulting is hard and sometimes you someone to show you how. I'm here for you.

Economic development? Oregon is all for it. Just good luck finding employees: Oregon's unemployment rate has been running at record lows all year.

Perhaps, like the absence of a sales tax (think of it as an automatic discount for visitors from other states!), not pumping your own gas is just baked into what Oregon means to Oregonians.

So to all the Americans who mock Oregonian's reluctance to pump our own gas, consider the words of our late, great Gov. Tom McCall (who a half century ago led the battle for the Oregon Bottle Bill, a first in the nation; and the Oregon Beach Bill, which declared ALL of the state's beaches public, unlike California):

“We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again," McCall famously said. "But for heaven's sake, don't move here to live. Or if you do have to move in to live, don't tell any of your neighbors where you are going.”

Because your neighbors might move here, too - and that could slow you down the next time you have to wait in line at the pump.

FULL TEXT

Volume : 12 - Drugs and Alcohol, Fire Protection, Natural Resources - Chapters 471-535 ?(44)

Chapter 480 Explosives; Flammable Materials; Pressure Vessels

480.315 Policy. The Legislative Assembly declares that, except as provided in ORS 480.345 to 480.385, it is in the public interest to maintain a prohibition on the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail. The Legislative Assembly finds and declares that:

(1) The dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by dispensers properly trained in appropriate safety procedures reduces fire hazards directly associated with the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids;

(2) Appropriate safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers;

(3) Higher liability insurance rates charged to retail self-service stations reflect the dangers posed to customers when they leave their vehicles to dispense Class 1 flammable liquids, such as the increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury resulting from slipping on slick surfaces;

(4) The dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection (3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility;

(5) The dangers described in subsection (3) of this section are heightened when the customer is a senior citizen or has a disability, especially if the customer uses a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches;

(6) Attempts by other states to require the providing of aid to senior citizens and persons with disabilities in the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail have failed, and therefore, senior citizens and persons with disabilities must pay the higher costs of full service;

(7) Exposure to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids;

(8) The hazard described in subsection (7) of this section is heightened when the customer is pregnant;

(9) The exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should, in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained and certified dispensers;

(10) The typical practice of charging significantly higher prices for full-service fuel dispensing in states where self-service is permitted at retail:

(a) Discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self-service;

(b) Discriminates against customers who are elderly or have disabilities who are unable to serve themselves and so must pay the significantly higher prices; and

(c) Increases self-service dispensing and thereby decreases maintenance checks by attendants, which results in neglect of maintenance, endangering both the customer and other motorists and resulting in unnecessary and costly repairs;

(11) The increased use of self-service at retail in other states has contributed to diminishing the availability of automotive repair facilities at gasoline stations;

(12) Self-service dispensing at retail in other states does not provide a sustained reduction in fuel prices charged to customers;

(13) A general prohibition of self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by the general public promotes public welfare by providing increased safety and convenience without causing economic harm to the public in general;

(14) Self-service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people;

(15) Self-service dispensing at retail presents a health hazard and unreasonable discomfort to persons with disabilities, elderly persons, small children and those susceptible to respiratory diseases;

(16) The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336, requires that equal access be provided to persons with disabilities at retail gasoline stations; and

(17) Small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation. [1991 c.863 §49a; 1999 c.59 §160; 2007 c.70 §276]

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